Retired General Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, has just published an excellent op-ed in The Independent newspaper in the UK. He writes: “A gradual military intervention along the lines of the Libyan model of a Western aerial campaign seems the most effective response to the Syrian crisis.” He then goes on to demolish, one by one, all the arguments against such an intervention, showing that Syria need not become Iraq Redux and that the challenge of Syrian military power can be met handily by the air forces of the West.
His article is all the more interesting given that, until the start of the anti-Assad uprising last year, the consensus in Israeli security circles seemed to be that the West should deal with Assad on the “better the devil you know” principle. When the war against him broke out many Israelis privately took the view that it was in their interest for the fighting to continue indefinitely because a weakened and embattled Assad would not cause much trouble for Israel. Similar arguments were and are popular among Realpolitikers in the West. Even today, many in the West argue for inaction on the grounds that we don’t really know who the Syrian rebels are and that Assad’s ouster could give an opening to radical Islamists to take over.
Israel has a lot more reason to be concerned about those dangers than the U.S. simply because it’s located right on Syria’s border, but Yadlin believes, as do a growing number of current and former Israeli officials, that the greatest risk of all is to leave Assad in power indefinitely.
Let us hope that President Obama and his advisers read Yadlin’s article carefully and ponder whether the case for inaction is really as compelling as they seem to think.